I am moved by Lady Percy 's expression of love. CLICK HERE - see if you agree.
Otherwise my novels, short stories, verse, family, music, memories, vulgar interests, detestations,
responses, apologies. I hold posts to 300 words* having found less is better than more.
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Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Does osmosis work with music?

Once it was OK to label certain people as cultured. Not now, though.  And it isn’t the fault of our minister of culture (somewhat tarnished by his links with Murdoch). The word has lost some of its currency, perhaps because it implies that the rest of us are uncultured – crass, oafish, ill-educated, insensitive, bad with cutlery.

For one thing culture’s meanings are now widely spread: think of pearls and unspeakable things in laboratory petri dishes. Also the noun’s primary meaning (Enlightenment and excellence of taste acquired by intellectual and artistic training) seems a mite discriminatory.

Not that anyone ever has, but I’d hate to be described as cultured. I’d immediately suspect sarcasm. It’s that word “training” that gets me, as if becoming cultured were a conscious goal. A goal which in any case ebbs and flows.

Take music. I own a CD of Alan Rawsthorne’s first and second violin concertos. If I did aspire to being a culturee* those two pieces of music would be worthwhile steps on the upward tilted ladder. The first time Rawsthorne’s had a mention in Tone Deaf. Go on, admit it. You’re impressed.

You shouldn’t be. I haven’t the faintest memory of either piece. Even worse, in checking my discs for something obscure, I was astonished to discover I owned the CD. I could claim kudos for having bought it but since I can’t remember why that would be kudos built on sand.

Which brings me to a niggling question. Does a piece of music, heard and now forgotten, legitimately form part of one’s cultural development?  Can one assume that something beneficial “rubbed off”? Seems slightly fraudulent to me. Gives me the shudders. But then I’m not an instinctive knife-and-fork user.

*Culturee. Word fabricated out of laziness.


  1. We are what we are and culture is what others may or not see in us to a greater or lesser degree, and that perception would only relate to certain areas of our makeup, and would not therefore be the whole picture.

    What one should really be concerned with is one’s own perception of oneself. Culture implies to me, as well as education, good manners as you rightly say, which are really a human cover up for true motivations and preferred action, so that aspect of culture should be taken into account in any self analysis, by which I mean one must consider how much one is deceiving the outside world with good manners, or unnecessarily offending if one lacks them.

    Do you feel guilty about areas of the arts and science that you have not explored or made yourself familiar with, or do you have a feeling of self satisfaction at what you have taken on board so far?

    I was once complimented on how I consumed a bowl of soup in restaurant so I am not sure where I stand in the culture stakes now.

  2. Culture in the narrow sense is as you say something rather awful associated with a particularly obnoxious form of snobbery, usually intellectual snobbery. Like you I try to steer clear of this form of it. But the wider sense, when applied to humans rather than bacteria, we can't escape. It is the way groups live and develop and describes every aspect of behaviour and their outcomes. Hence stone age culture and nowadays I suppose cyber culture.

  3. Sir Hugh: I think some of your reflections and questions about culture are answered below by Plutarch. As it happens I was using the term to jump from the general to the particular - ie, from a state of mind (actual or perceived) to the steps by which one arrives there.

    Guilt? No, I don't. There are only so many subjects one can cover. What does please me is the way science (the random result of the RAF) and the arts, especially music, have drawn together in later life such that I can list them together simply under "interests". Thus there is no real distinction between quantum mechanics and Cosi.

    Plutarch: You have taken the baton and run. It's astonishing that a single word can cover two wildly disparate meanings: one repellent, the other neutral yet useful.

  4. Sir Hugh took my breath away with the first sentence of his comment to your thought-provoking post, LdP! My first 5 years of undergraduate education distilled! My professors talked about culture with a little 'c' versus Culture with a big 'C'. Mumbo jumbo, I remember thinking. "Posh music belongs to the big 'C' category," the Professor expounded. And I thought, "Jackass." A word used by folks in the little 'c' category, no doubt. Plutarch also nails it. Culture with a little 'c' is the "way groups live and develop ..."
    But what happens when a little girl grows up thinking it's natural to hold her fork in the left hand and the knife in the right hand with both forefingers extended? What happens when a little girl grows up thinking that Leonard Bernstein is a god and that posh music is the best thing since sliced bread?

  5. RW (zS): "A world too wide for his shrunk shank". In the end the c-word is too vague unless it is used with significant qualifiers. All four of us so far have picked differing viewpoints and there are others left untouched. Mrs LdP goes a stage further and thinks the word on its own should be banned.

    You're right about knives/forks and left/hand; in the UK this can trigger a judgement about your position in society (another hideously vague word). As to Bernie, he is concisely summarised in:

    There was a little girl,
    Who had a little curl,
    Right in the middle of her forehead.
    When she was good,
    She was very very good,
    And when she was bad
    She was horrid